Slaying victim's secret, double life
Published: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 at 11:21 p.m.
Carole Marie Brooks described herself as a healer. The Santa Rosa masseuse who was gunned down 10 days ago at her massage office near downtown Santa Rosa surrounded herself with spiritual charms, costumes and dance.
Brooks, 60, called her work full-body sensual massage, a gentler description of the sexual services she performed for male clients, often arranged through the Internet, in addition to her regular massage practice.
Though known to police and to others in Sonoma County's network of sex workers, the nature of Brooks' practice was unknown to many in her community of fellow dancers, artists and spiritual seekers.
“I don't think any of us had any idea,” said Brooks' friend Star Dewar, 63, of Santa Rosa. “It made me feel even worse that I considered myself her friend and she didn't tell me about that part of her life.”
Brooks' slaying also may have uncovered the secret life of a Stockton man police said shot her within minutes of arriving at her Clark Street massage studio.
John Quincy Ellis, 46, a truck driver who lived with his two children and with his ex-wife in a platonic arrangement at his Stockton home, had only a “negligible” criminal history, police said.
Ellis, who was connected to Brooks' slaying through his rental car, apparently committed suicide the next day by running onto Interstate 5 near Stockton, where he was hit by a big rig truck.
Ellis may be linked by additional evidence to unsolved crimes outside Sonoma County that are both violent and “sexual in nature,” Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Steve Fraga said.
Local detectives are working closely with law enforcement in at least one other jurisdiction, Fraga said, but more details about that case won't be released until a connection is more certain.
Detectives still don't know if Ellis was a returning client, Fraga said. Nor do they know why Ellis drove his personal car to a Stockton Hertz Rent-a-Car agency on the morning of Feb. 5 and drove a Nissan Versa to the granny unit where Brooks worked.
Ellis and Brooks had arranged for the appointment through text messages, Fraga said. However the messages didn't specify the nature of his visit.
“We don't have a conversation that discusses anything more than an appointment,” Fraga said.
The small rented unit sits back from the residential street between Brookwood Avenue and E Street on a gravel driveway. The studio was outfitted as a massage practice, with a table, incense, tuning forks and other body work tools, Fraga said.
“I have high suspicions that she may have been involved in more than just massage, but we have zero proof,” Fraga said.
Brooks grew up in San Francisco and was known as Tania to many, her friends said. As a youth, she trained in ballet and in adulthood spent many years dancing and teaching dance in Paris. She had her eldest of two daughters in France, said friend Jan Kucker of Santa Rosa.
A video called “Paris Dancer” on YouTube shows photographs of Brooks posed in flowing Greek-like tunics at what's described as “sacred” locations around the French city.
“She was exquisite when she was dancing, she took you back in time,” Kucker said.
Kucker said they became friends after Brooks visited her in 1999 for a psychic reading, and they shared friends who attended classes on holistic and alternative spirituality.
Her friends uniformly used words like generous, elegant and “goddess” to describe her. They said they can't imagine anyone harming her.
They also expressed resounding shock that her massage practice was at least in part sexual.
“That's not who I knew,” Kucker said.
Brooks described herself as “a true pleasure goddess” in a recent online ad on a Bay Area website for sex services. She included topless photos and offered intimate encounters for a $300 “love donation” in addition to salt scrubs, warm stone massages and chakra alignments in an ad on another site.
Fraga said detectives don't know if Ellis found Brooks through such online ads.
She was candid about the nature of her business in a 2009 Press Democrat article. She said she didn't have intercourse and only used her hands to manually stimulate her clients.
Brooks said she considered it a “healing act” that “creates peace in the world one person at a time,” and not prostitution.
Brooks has been on the radar of Santa Rosa Police Department's sex crimes investigators for at least 10 years, said Sgt. John Snetsinger, who runs the unit.
Brooks was arrested in Santa Rosa in 2001 for prostitution. Her record was partially removed in 2003 after she completed a diversion program that included drug addiction counseling.
In some of her last words, she told police that a man she knew only as “John Paul” had demanded her money and then shot her.
The scope of violence in Sonoma County's seedy underbelly is hard to quantify, Snetsinger said. Few sex workers call police if they're robbed or hurt because they don't want to implicate themselves.
“These things don't get reported,” Snetsinger said. “I can see why they wouldn't report it.”
Clients far too often can take advantage of the women or men they see, said Chris Castillo, executive director of Sonoma County's rape response center Verity.
“They think because they've paid they can do what they want,” Castillo said. “There's no cause for someone to do to her what he did to her, absolutely none, but somehow he felt he had the right to do that.”
Brooks also advertised and provided conventional massage, friends and several clients said.
Brooks' client for nearly four years, David Bramham, 73, said he was unaware of the sexual services she offered and had only received regular treatments.
The Forestville resident said he suffered from back injuries and stress from years running a gravel plant in Healdsburg. A chiropractor recommended he get a massage before treatments, though Bramham said he didn't remember if that's how he found Brooks.
“She helped relieve a lot of my pain, I still have some of the stuff she gave me to put on my neck,” Bramham said.
Brooks used water treatments and warm stones during his massages, he said. She recently had taken a break of at least a month to care for her aging father in Los Angeles.
“I know she took off time to take care of her dad, that's the kind of person I knew,” Bramham said. “She probably wouldn't turn anybody down for help.”
Brooks also taught dance and performed around Sonoma County, her friends said.
In 2008, Brooks produced an arts event called “Simply Remarkable Women” at Sebastopol's Subud Hall with co-producer Susana Crofton, 60, of Sebastopol.
“We'd sit on her couches, sip champagne, so of course there was a lot of giggling,” Crofton said of their planning sessions.
“She was planning on doing another one this year.”
As investigators wait for ballistics tests to complete their inquiry into Brooks' killing, her body remains at the Sonoma County coroner's office.
Kucker said her family was still reeling. Her daughters and mother haven't responded to a reporter's calls.
However, Kucker said they will plan a memorial suited to Brooks' spirit: “A magical tea party celebrating her life. And of course there will be dance. She would haunt us if we didn't have dance.”
You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or email@example.com.
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